Movie soundtracks and TV shows are no strangers to the musical single release world. We have The Timelords/ KLF giving us “Doctoring the TARDIS” we have The Firm giving us “Star Trekkin” but generally speaking these have little to do with the show itself and are performed by groups outwith the actual show. But several programmes have gone one further and preyed on their popularity by releasing musical attacks on the charts. Here we look at the top five TV chart toppers. Starting quite obviously with…
The Rembrandts- I’ll be there for you
For people of a certain age the television show Friends, styled F.R.I.E.N.D.S to make typing a bastard, was a defining comedic experience of their age. Personally I preferred Fraiser because I’m smarter than you, but his theme never really took off. The show’s final episode was watched by over 50 million American viewers and over the course of it’s run featured cameos from such heavy weights as Jean Claude Van Damme, Hugh Laurie, Jennifer Saunders, Brad Pitt, and a monkey.
The theme song was performed by The Rembrandts who were not an artistic movement based on Baroque paintings but a modern pop rock group. With the success of the TV show they released the music video and purchasable song to the consumerist public. The video is wonderful 90s-ness and will take us all back to a time when sky blue jeans were considered acceptable to wear in public.
It reached number 3 in the UK charts, spending 6 weeks in the UK Top Ten but was defeated in reaching the top spot in its release week by Madonna at number 1 (fair enough) and Clock at number 2. We all remember where we were the day Clock got the number 2 spot.
Spitting Image – The Chicken Song
What the fuck is there to say about this song? In 1986 Spitting Image was a phenomenon. It was, for those who lived under a rock, a puppet based satirical television show and lampooned celebrities and politicians mercilessly. It was said that you had finally “made it” when Spitting Image mocked you.
I often wonder what Spitting Image would do today? David Cameron’s infamous Pigscapades would undoubtedly form the back bone of an ongoing sketch much like they did with President Regan losing his mind – which fled to Russia.
It is o surprise therefore that Spitting Image attacked the charts, and in 1986 they reached the number one position in the UK with The Chicken Song.
Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor (keep an eye out, they’ll appear again in this list) it was a satirical attack on the cheesy, crappy, bubble gum pap of the time, famously lampooning Agadoo and Do the Conga. It ridicules not only the style but, obviously for Spitting Image, the singers associated with those styles.
Sitting Image is truly missed in this modern age when it would have so many opportunities to cleverly and mercilessly lampoon those in power. Imagine it, a David Cameron puppet spending time with a piggy, imagine how Donald Trump would be portrayed. ISIS would stand no chance.
The Cat- Tongue Tied
There are very few successful Sci-Fi comedies. Mostly they have success in movies, but TV is sadly lacking in comedic space travel. There have been attempts to create memorable sci fi comedy TV such as the short lived show Hyperdrive, but that didn’t really seep in to the public consciousness. Of course, Futurama is a popular show and the Nicholas Lyndhurst vehicle Goodnight Sweetheart has its fans (me among them) but television has never really been able to merge Science Fiction with comedy in a successful way.
Except with Red Dwarf. Red Dwarf is the tale of the last man alive- David Lister- who spends his time with a senile AI, a hologram of his dead boss, a Mechanoid with severe personality defects and a creature evolved from his pet cat.
Red Dwarf is huge. It has a global fan base and after nearly 30 years is still on the go. The latest series feels just as fun and fresh as some of the first episodes and the cast has fun with the bizarre concept of a crew stranded 3,000,000 years from Earth.
It is also the only space based sci-fi show I can think of that has no aliens in it whatsoever. It was so successful that the US tried to create their own version of the show, trying twice with two separate and terrible pilot episodes. Another interesting point is that Alfred Molina and Alan Rickman were considered for the roles of Arnold Rimmer and Dave Lister respectively.
In October 1993 Rob grant and Doug Naylor, creators of the show, released another musical attack on the charts. The song was Tongue Tied by the character of the Cat, performed by Danny John Jules. It was a surreal dream sequence originally, later remixed into an early 90s synth and bass filled number. It didn’t do well, only reaching number 17 in the charts though that is said to be due to a lack of promotion on the productions part.
Kate Kestrel- S.O.S
In the 1980s Supermarionation and puppeteer legend Gerry Anderson released the show Terrahawks. A short lived, but truly terrifying, sci fi show utilising the best in modern puppetry techniques that focused on a Martian invasion of Earth lead by the hideous Zelda. Earths only protection was the Terrahwaks, a group of military minded specialists with cutting edge technology. There were many forgettable characters but among those that stand out are Dr “Tiger” Ninestein, a series of clones leading the team, the scientific advisor Hiro with the most racist East Asian accent since Mickey Rooney put on yellow face and one other stand out character in the form of Kate Kestrel, part time club singer and international hero.
Several songs were released “by” “Kate Kestrel” but were actually sung by singer Moya Griffiths. Very little information exists about this song, I can’t even find a chart position but it was released in 1983 as a 7” single. It did not make it in to the top 2 is all I can say.
Anita Dobson- Anyone can fall in love
The title is pretty obvious, I mean anyone can fall in love really. Love according the aforementioned Red Dwarf is simply a short term hormonal imbalance. The television soap opera Eastenders began airing on BBC television in 1985 and featured a variety of characters, two of the most popular being local pub landlords Dirty Den and Angie.
One of the most famous scenes in UK TV history is of Den presenting Angie with divorce papers on Christmas day. But a far greater crime was committed by Angie actor Anita Dobson in 1986.
The theme tune to Eastenders is recognisable to most people in Britain, but it was decided less than a year after the show premiered that the theme should be solidified in peoples memories by releasing a version with lyrics performed by Dobson.
The song reached the incredible position of number 4 in the UK charts showing us that 80s music really is pretty dire and they had no taste…. I say that, though my first single bought was in the 1980s and was Star Trekkin by The Firm… but I was a child… and I was scared by the dub track remix on side 2 of the record so much my mum had to mark that side with pen so I knew not to play it alone.
Anyone can fall in love is clearly just a money grab, but like Leias song to the theme of Star Wars in the slightly-better-than-the-prequels-movie The Star Wars Holiday Special, it is as much cringe worthy as it is curiously appealing.
Honourable Mention – Star Trek
Finally we have this bizarre little number. This didn’t chart at all, not that I can’t find the charting, it didn’t get anywhere because I am not even sure if it was originally released, but is worthy of an honourable mention. Not the awesome Star Trekkin that I have mentioned copiously since the start of this, but the original song. You see, when Star Trek was created by Gene “the more we learn about him, the more of a dick he is” Roddenberry he hired musician Alexander Courage to create the theme music. Roddenberry, aware that Courage could keep the rights and make money from his own work, decided to add lyrics to the music. These lyrics were never intended to be released and only served to ensure Roddenberry received 50% of any royalties from the music.
What a cockwomble. And the lyrics are no better.
The song starts at 0.24 seconds